AT A GLANCE
Division III girls semifinals
WHO: No. 4 East Union vs. No. 1 St. Mary’s
WHEN: Wednesday, 4 p.m. tipoff
ADMISSION: $9 adults, $5 students
WHERE: Galt High School
HOW TO GET THERE: From Highway 99 northbound, take the Central Galt/C Street exit. Turn left at the stop sign. Go over the overpass to another four-way stop sign. Turn right on Fairway Drive. At the stop, go straight (A Street). At the light (Lincoln Way), turn right. School is on corner of Lincoln Way and A Street.
And there’s St. Mary’s.
East Union High’s second-year head coach, Jim Agostini, the rest of the staff and all of their players know what they’re up against Wednesday when they resume the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoffs in the semifinal round at Galt High.
Top-seeded St. Mary’s of Stockton is and has been among the nation’s elite. The Rams (25-3) are ranked the second best Division III team in the state, fifth overall and 21st nationally according to ESPN RISE.
“This is a very elite team, an all-star team with great basketball players with great skills,” Agostini said. “We haven’t come close to seeing a team like this. To be able to take the floor with them is something (special).”
Scary thought: St. Mary’s has no seniors.
The Rams are led by 5-foot-11 point guard Chelsea Gray, a Manteca resident and 6-foot forward Afure Jemerigbe. St. Mary’s has done just fine without Jemerigbe (ankle) so far, crushing No. 16 Livingston 99-15 before doing away with No. 9 Sonora, 95-39.
Fourth-seeded East Union (27-2) prefers an uptempo, helter-skelter pace. But are the Lancers ready for St. Mary’s speed? St. Mary’s feeds off a high-pressure, full-court press and throws up 3-pointers, while making many of them, in bunches.
In short, Agostini calls it, “an all-out onslaught.”
East Union’s senior backcourt tandem of Rachel McDaniel and Ashley Rose, who transferred from St. Mary’s midway through her sophomore year, will be subject to that intense pressure.
“It’s going to be a fast game,” McDaniel said after Thursday’s 46-40 victory over No. 5 El Dorado (Placerville) at Dalben Center. “They press the entire time, which is going to make us play fast. That’s our game. Maybe it’s going to be a little faster than we’re used to, but I think we can get into the flow it.
“We’re going to have to be very defined in what we do. We’re going to have to be very fundamentally sound and careful with the ball — we can’t have any careless turnovers.”
If St. Mary’s wins and No. 3 Sacramento defeats No. 2 Del Oro, they will face each other for the section championship for the third straight season and the fourth time in the last five years. St. Mary’s and Sacramento have split the last two Division III titles.
For East Union, it will play in its first postseason semifinal game since 1994. The Lancers are undoubtedly heavy underdogs going in, they aren’t intimidated.”
“(The experience) is something that the girls can take with them down the road,” Agostini said. “That’s not to say we’re going down there planning on losing, though. We’re going to lace them up, attack and hopefully come out on the positive end.
“We made it to the playoffs for eight straight years but have one playoff win and two playoff home games until this year. To have an opportunity to play for the finals, we’re honored to be able to play on that stage.”